In remote, almost desert-like surroundings on the far side of the Falgu River, 12km northeast of Bodhgaya, sit the Mahakala (or Dungeshwari) Caves, where Buddha did the severe penance that led him to see the futility of extreme asceticism. Realizing that the key to enlightenment was a “middle path” between self-denial and self-indulgence, he walked down to Bodhgaya, where he achieved nirvana. A short climb from the base of the impressive cliff leads to a Tibetan monastery and the three caves.

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